A Taste of Home at Touch of Ukraine

food at Touch of Ukraine in Madison, Wis.

By Kevin Revolinski | Photography by Hillary Schave

It’s what we do best, it’s what we eat at home, and what we know, what we love, and what we would like to share with Americans,” says Katya Temchenko of the menu at Touch of Ukraine, which opened in July 2023. The restaurant took over the former Union Corners Brewery space. Temchenko is the manager, and you’ll find her behind the bar or hustling in the kitchen, part of a team mostly made up of war refugees from Zaporizhzhia. The Ukrainian city of nearly 750,000 people straddles the Dnieper River, and has been repeatedly under attack from the Russian military. Temchenko and ten others came to Madison thanks to the sponsorship of Gary Gorman, whose development group is behind the Union Corners project. One of Gorman’s employees is married to a Ukrainian native, and he was assisting in bringing her parents to the U.S. He extended his efforts to several other friends of the family fleeing Zaporizhzhia. An open restaurant space provided an opportunity for all of them.

“…Here, we could find a place for every one of us,” says Temchenko. “We could be together. We understood that none of us can work the same job we had in Ukraine. We are lawyers, HR specialists, managers … here, we can create our home atmosphere and share it with people.”

The group developed the menu together, but chef Tatiania Yermolova is the only one of them with professional food experience. “She’s a very old-school woman. You don’t want to mess with her,” Temchenko laughs.

All dishes are made from scratch, from the chicken Kyiv to the varenyky (potato dumplings) and smaller pelmeni, filled with pork and beef ground on-site and served with fried onion and sour cream. The mlyntsi are crepes filled with ground beef or cottage cheese.

The cottage cheese they serve (with a higher fat content) comes from Pennsylvania and has a different texture and flavor, according to Temchenko, and they are still looking for a source for traditional salo, salt-cured bacon fat.

Even if you’re not a beet fan, the borsch — “the cornerstone of all Ukraine cuisine,” says Temchenko — is delicately balanced. There’s also a soup of the day. Specials such as cabbage rolls or stuffed peppers may come and go with the seasons. A few American items such as a chicken salad sandwich and a fried chicken sandwich round out the menu.

In the full bar, Khor Vodka from Ukraine is a featured brand. Ukrainians traditionally drink it as a shot — but it’s in the Kyiv Mule and the Upside Down Ukrainian Flag, both mixed with Blue Curacao.

2438 Winnebago St, Madison | touchofukrainemadison.com

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